If the expanding oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico cannot be contained, South Florida stands to lose a significant portion of the $1.2 billion a year in economic activity generated by recreational, or sport fishing alone, according to a new study conducted by the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust that was funded in part by the Everglades Foundation.
According to the report, “The Economic Impact of Recreational Fishing in the Everglades Region,” sport fishing in the Everglades generates about $722 million annually in retail sales of equipment and related expenditures. This popular activity produces more than $378 million in wages that support 12,391 full-time equivalent jobs and brings in tax revenues exceeding $90 million (federal) and $72 million (state and local) from Florida’s 13 southernmost counties.
More than 8,000 jobs linked to saltwater sport fishing could be jeopardized if oil reaches the Everglades region. Of primary concern is the oil spill’s potential impact on more than $883 million in economic impact associated with saltwater sport fish including bonefish, redfish, snook, sea trout and tarpon. This accounts for 71 percent of the $1.2 billion in Everglades Region’s sport fish economic impact. The study also provides an economic analysis of freshwater fishing expenditures linked to popular species such as largemouth bass and catfish.
The study is the result of a survey of more than 1,600 anglers who were asked about the number of days they fished in the region, what they fished for and their related expenditures.
“We originally funded this study to quantify how much the Everglades had to contribute, economically. Sadly, it now it tells us what we stand to lose,” said Kirk Fordham, Everglades Foundation CEO. “This potential tragedy makes our mission of preserving and restoring America’s Everglades even more urgent.”
The survey was limited to Florida residents and did not take into account those anglers who travel from out of state to fish in the Everglades Region, thus the actual economic contribution— and potential loss— would likely be much greater than the findings suggest. Those who make a living from professions ranging from fishing guides to operating boat charter services could suffer significant financial setbacks and even secondary industries dependent on sport fishing such as boat manufacturers, fishing gear and apparel makers could be negatively impacted should the spill reach the Everglades Region.
“The spill has really put the findings in a new light for me,” said study author, fisheries economics specialist Tony Fedler, Ph.D. “The study now speaks to how fragile our environment is, how dependent we are on it and the consequences of failing to protect it.”
Aaron Adams, Ph.D., director of operations for Bonefish &Tarpon Trust, added, “In a worst case scenario, oil reaches the mangrove habitats that serve as nurseries for so many of the game fish that support this sport fishing community, which would have far-reaching consequences. Juvenile tarpon, for example, which are the future of the fishery, depend on healthy mangrove habitats. When you look at tarpon, the potential impacts are not limited to South Florida – adult tarpon annually migrate into the northern Gulf of Mexico and, on the east coast, as far north as the Chesapeake Bay. This event underscores the need for our resource managers to see the whole picture when they make decisions about resource use.”
The 13 southernmost counties included in the study -- known as “the Everglades Region” -- are: Osceola, Highlands, Okeechobee, St. Lucie, Martin, Glades, Lee, Hendry, Palm Beach, Collier, Broward, Monroe and Miami-Dade. Recreational saltwater fishing was limited to the shallows of Florida Bay on the northern side of the Florida Keys.
A complete copy of the study can be found by clicking b visiting the Everglades Foundation website Media Center and Resources section and accessing the Reports and Survey dropdown at www.evergladesfoundation.org/pages/reports-and-surveys.